Diane Johnson

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Health and Happiness

Johnson, Diane

Last Updated: Apr-24-2006
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel


The site of the multiple stories interwoven in this novel is a teaching hospital in San Francisco. One of the featured characters is a young single mother who comes in with a swollen arm and finds herself in more medical trouble than she anticipated. She suffers a mild stroke after debatable treatment. Two doctors attend her, but differ markedly in their ideas of how to treat her and their human responses to her. One ends up having a brief affair with her that changes his life.

In addition to these there are stories of a comatose young man and the family that refuses to believe he will not awaken (he does); a volunteer coordinator who observes the politics of hospital life from a privileged margin, and sundry staff people who represent alternative points of view. The single mother recovers, but only after a stay in the hospital has convinced her she may not yet be too old to go to medical school to find a life not in marrying a doctor, but in being one.

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